Hand High School is coming off back-to-back state Class L state championships and the Tigers have high hopes for this season.
“Expectations coming into this season are nothing but a championship,” said senior offensive and defensive lineman Ben Corniello.
The program is as strong as ever, thanks in part to third-year head coach Dave Mastroianni who helped restore the culture.
“This is what it means to be a Hand Tiger and this is how we act, this is how we behave, this is how we practice and this is how we play,” said Mastroianni.
“We’ve developed a really strong culture around here,” added senior cornerback, wide receiver and kicker Isaiah McNeilly. “Once Coach came in, he instituted a lot of new things that I think has built a lot of team chemistry.”
Dating back to 2017, the Tigers have won 24 straight games and two straight State Titles.
“Most guys were involved in both those so we don’t like to think about those that much but we also like to embrace that a lot of people want to beat us because we’ve done that,” said senior quarterback Phoenix Billings.
“I know it sounds repetitive but the success is 1-0. We’ve been fortunate to pile up 24 wins in a row right now,” said Mastroianni.
There could be some new competition this year with successful programs like Berlin, New Canaan and St. Joseph all joining Class L.
“We realize that it’s not going to be that easy this year,” said Corniello.
“We’ve been looking to this for a while so it’s going to be nice to beat the better teams and still be able to say we’re the best,” said McNeilly.
A three-peat for Hand would be the perfect ending for the senior class.
“Not many teams in the state have been able to do that,” said Billings. “There’s only been two teams here that have done it and to do it with this senior class, the guys that we’ve been playing with since fourth grade, it would be amazing.”